Crew of the FV Wildcard sighted a giant gill net at Money Shoal close to Croker Island in the Northern Territory one day as they were about to start fishing.
Bruce Davey, owner and skipper, described what happened in an interview with Lyn Lambeth from NT Seafood Council NT, “We quickly dived on the gillnet to assess the situation and then initiated a detailed Salvage and Safety Action Plan encompassing all aspects required to expertly and promptly salvage the gillnet. As such we sacrificed three full days fishing and considerable income and associated costs to retrieve as much gillnet as humanly and safely possible.”
When diving on the gillnet the Wildcard crew observed many dead and dying fish trapped by the net, as well as widespread damage of the coral reef to which the net was attached. They also reported that numerous turtles, birds and other marine life had been sighted in the near vicinity. This included four large whale sharks that FV Wildcard filmed on site, confirming their presence in the region with only three local reports over the past 20 years.
Once free, the net was delivered to the care of the NT Police Minjilang (Croker Island) and the local Garngi Community Rangers. The Rangers and GhostNets Australia staff recorded the details of the net and the wildlife entangled in it, and then disposed of it. Details of the contents of the net once ashore included the following species:
- Queensland groper,
- Australian black tipped reef shark (4),
- Flatback Turtle,
- unidentified Turtle,
- Australian sharp nosed shark,
- unidentified Shark(3),
- Sand swimmer crab(12),
- Pacific Jewel box,
- Sponge crab,
- Flat long armed crab,
- Pearl oyster,
- Mussel (10),
- Banded grunter (31), and
- Hard and flat coral (5).
Lyn Lambeth states, “It’s quite common for commercial fishers to collect rubbish from the water and from the coast, and they have collected a number of ghost nets over the years and usually it’s just not publicised.”
Answering a query from Lyn Lambeth on the cost to the Wildcard of removing the net Bruce Davey responded, “with a conservative estimate in the vicinity of $35,000 which would be one quarter of the cost had a private salvage company or a Customs or Navy vessel been resourced directly from and back to Darwin….and that’s if the weather had been as good at the time.”
Follow this link to see video footage of the net and its retrieval.